Request to Line Managers
September 1 Postscript (commentaries)
January 19, 2023
Managing Director and CEO
CommentaryWe have many employees who have joined us mid-career and those with management experiences have been appointed as line managers; accordingly, manager education has not been adequately provided. In 2019, as the company is evolving into a new stage, I thought it would be a good idea to offer some kind of guidelines as to what line managers should be mindful of.
Just let me clarify these guidelines are not meant to make an alibi or an excuse after something wrong happens, as is often the case in organizations these days. In order for a company of a certain size to operate functionally, it is necessary to maintain good human relationships, and for this reason we have created this. In addition, it is also a commandment to myself. In any case, we are not necessarily saying that you have no qualification as line manager just because you cannot carry out on these guidelines. My intention is to encourage you to be conscious of and work towards these guidelines.
1. Review the Corporate Mission, Management Policies, and Code of Conduct periodically, to understand and take them deeply to heart.
CommentaryThe Corporate Mission is the meaning of our company to exist in society, or the life of the company, if you will. Talk about it from time to time with valued customers, contractors, business partners, also with personal friends and family. And assimilate them.
2. Be aware that your behavior is always being observed. Any behaviors that look like mixing of work and private are the most unacceptable.
CommentaryThe point is “look-like” work and private mixing. Even if there is no intention to mix work and private, it is not acceptable so long as any member takes it as work-private mix. Keep in mind that even the littlest things tend to be taken as mixing.
3. It is when a job is tough (such as apologizing to a customer) that the manager should take the lead. Staff members respect courageous managers.
CommentaryIt is not just apologies to customers; making important decisions is also tough. Everyone has something they are not good at. It may be hard but showing your staff that you will not run away from any tough jobs is also an important duty of a line manager.
4. Do not create an impression of favoritism, such as having lunch/going out for drinks with a specific staff member (even a group of staff members).
CommentaryThe point is creating “wrong impression.” Even if there is no intention, some staff members may take it as an act of favoritism. This is not anything to restrict a lunch with staff members, which is ok as long as it does not give wrong impression of favoritism. On the other hand, let me point out to staff members that it is a common sense, in my opinion, to accept friendly gathering invitations from line managers “once in a while.”
5. Inviting a staff member of the opposite gender out for one-on-one lunch/drinks is not acceptable. Staff find it difficult to refuse, so it could be construed as harassment.
CommentarySuch invitations are unacceptable. As staff are in the weaker position, they might be smiling outside and angry inside. “Don’t straighten your cap under a plum tree (Don’t do anything that could be misconstrued, because when you raise your hand it might look as if you are trying to steal the plums.).” Of course, as long as it is not one-on-one, such invitations should be fine every now and then.
6. Do not hesitate to make amends for your wrongs (Analects of Confucius).
CommentaryWhat this means is that everyone makes mistakes and acknowledging one’s own mistakes can be hard, yet, we should have the courage to do just that. Words of Confucius from more than 2,000 years ago are convincing. The Analects of Confucius contain universal wisdom.
7. Do not point out other’s mistakes, nor boast of your own achievements (Nakane Tori).
CommentaryCriticizing others and boasting about yourself can make you feel good. That is why we tend to do so without thinking. However, if we take these words to heart, it will curb such behavior. If you are not conscious of it, you will become mediocre person who has lost sight of the purpose of life. Staff will not respect someone like that.
Nakane Tori was a scholar from Japanese Edo Period who turned his back on fame and fortune to pursue a life of seclusion. This statement is one of the rules set forth for his students.
8. Managers should greet out loud when you come into or leave the office. Also, if the manager is quick with harmless jokes, the workplace becomes brighter. Puns are just fine.
CommentaryWorkplaces that have smile and laughter will raise efficiency and lower stress. I would ask line managers to take the lead in this regard. Greetings are something that shows “I have no hostility toward you.” Conversely, without greetings, the other person may feel bitterness in you.
9. Managers should initiate introductory communication in web meetings as well where some ice-breaker jokes are also helpful. Ask and encourage quiet participants to speak up and listen to opinions from all attending.
CommentarySubordinates tend to have a hard time speaking up even when they have something to say. Managers or moderator should be attentive for everyone to get involved.
To subordinates: It is regarded as social common sense to keep the camera on for web meetings.
10. Have one-on-one communication with your staff regularly and repeatedly under no influence of alcohol. The purpose of such talks is to listen to what your staff want to say.
CommentaryIt may be difficult, but the “regularly and repeatedly” is the important point. Talks over drinks are not very effective. In these one-on-one communications, if your staff member does 60% of the talking, it is successful. Be careful not to make it your one-man show.
11. Do it in private when giving lectures or in public when giving compliments.
CommentaryWhile this may sound familiar for everyone, we tend to find ourselves doing the opposite. Try to keep this in mind all the time.
12. There is nothing good to result by a heavy-handed order. The harsher the message, the more carefully you should express it.
CommentaryIn the pre-war Japanese army, high-handed orders and obedience through violence were commonplace. It is clear what the results have been.
13. Never reject a staff member’s proposal on the spot. Listen first, then if necessary, leave a day or two before saying no.
CommentaryIt takes courage for staff to bring proposals to their managers. More often than not, they come forward with it after giving serious thoughts. Having more knowledge and experience than staff, line managers may think the proposals from staff are not so good. Even so, if you reject them on the spot, they will lose motivation. Conversely, if their proposals are given even a little praise, your staff will try even harder and come up with better proposals. It is also often the case that proposals that seem insignificant at first glance turn out to have some good points upon reflection.
14. There are times when you must give your staff instructions that are against their intent. At such times, strive to gain their understanding by carefully explaining the background and objective of your instructions. However, if they are still not convinced even after you have carefully explained three times, you may carry through with the instructions.
CommentaryThis relates to No. 10. People who understand and are convinced will show better performance. You may find it onerous, but if you make the effort to convince them, it will be more efficient in the end. If they still do not understand after explaining three times, you should direct them to do as you ask. That is not being high-handed.
15. If a staff member does not improve even after giving guidance five times, there is a strong chance that such member is not suited to that work. Making such staff understand this and recommending to transfer may be a thoughtful thing to do.
Commentary There is no guarantee that the current work is the best for the staff. Nor is there any guarantee that their current manager is the best for them. Even the company may not be the best fit for them. They might demonstrate their strengths better somewhere else. You should not give up easily, but if you have guide them carefully five times and they still have not improved, recommendation for a change will also be a kind consideration for them. However, the key point here is “having that staff understand,” and you must not transfer them blindly.
16. Do not buy or sell the shares of related parties, either listed or unlisted.
CommentaryThis is an extra point. More than 3,600 companies in Japan have their shares listed on the stock exchange, so if you want to invest in shares, you should do so in companies that are not related to your work, either directly or indirectly. Even just being suspected of conducting insider trading can be troublesome. This is another of those “don’t tie your shoelaces in a watermelon patch (lest you be thought of as a watermelon thief)” lessons.